Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book when I opened it. I wasn’t sure the description spoke to me, but I bought it used fairly cheaply and I’d heard lots of good things about it. In the end, I really enjoyed it. A very political fantasy, the story follows Yeine Darr, a biracial protagonist who is half Arameri and half Darr. Her mother, who was exiled from the Arameri, has recently died and Yeine is summoned by her grandfather to the vast Arameri kingdom of Sky, where she is named heir to the throne. To get there, however, she must struggle against her cousins, who have the advantage of having been raised in the Arameri court. In addition, gods wander the halls of Sky, imprisoned in human bodies after losing a great war generations before. As Yeine is thrust into this world, the reader journeys alongside her, trying to decipher friend and foe and figure out where she fits in this twisted court.
Yeine is an interesting protagonist. She has all of the emotions one would expect in her very interesting new life, and sometimes you question her decisions, but you’re always on her side. As she maneuvers the political traps set for her, you realize what her life was like before and how much it has changed. Her relationships to those around her, particularly the gods and demi-gods, develop in intriguing and unexpected ways. The characters around her are also very well-developed, from her cousins to the gods and demi-gods to the servants. The twists and turns were enough to keep me reading, even if a lot of the suspense was political (which I admittedly adore). There was also interesting sex and violence and everything else you’d expect in a struggle for the throne.
I love political fantasy and good world building. In this novel, the world building was slow, but well done. There were times I was confused, but when I was patient, that patience usually paid off. There is a definite mythology here, from the original two gods and goddess to their children and the complicated relationships they all have with one another. The way the very real stories of the gods interact with humans here is very well done, almost making the gods part of the mundane, though they never can be. There is a lot at play here in the realm of humans as well. The Arameri pretty much rule the world, and not all of the other races truly appreciate that, despite the fact that the land is supposedly peaceful. There are moral ambiguities and shades of gray, and I loved every minute of it.
Overall, this was probably one of my favorite reads in January. There were times where the story dragged a bit, and some events I’m still perhaps struggling to grasp, but overall it was an interesting fantasy with a fascinating mythology and society, and the politics to go with it. I’m looking forward to the other two installments in the trilogy very much. Jemisin’s writing style is also quite beautiful. If you like fantasy with intense world building, adult themes, diversity (and it’s own voices!), and/or politics, this is a good one to check out.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Have any other good political fantasies to recommend? What did you think of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms? Let me know in the comments!